The College of Southern Maryland and Baldus Real Estate agents Sandy Fehl and Bob Johnston, a CSM Class of 1981 alumnus, have enjoyed a longtime connection and commitment to each other’s success. This fall, Fehl and Johnston made a decision to take their association with the college to the next level by creating the Johnston Fehl Scholarship Endowment.
“It is through the generosity of local business leaders like Bob and Sandy we can continue to reduce barriers to education by helping to keep college affordable,” CSM President Maureen Murphy said in a release. “The Johnston Fehl Scholarship Endowment will transform the lives of our students now and into the future.”
A proud former U.S. Marine and a retired sergeant with the Washington, D.C., Fire Department, Johnston was decorated by President Richard Nixon for several heroic rescues during his time with the fire department.
One time, Johnston entered a two-story townhouse with fire showing from the first and second floors and with little to no visibility and while crawling along the floor, he was able to locate a crib where an unresponsive 8-month-old baby was sleeping. Johnston made his way down the stairs with the infant to a waiting ambulance, where he administered resuscitation efforts until they reached a medical team waiting at Georgetown University Hospital, according to the release. While receiving treatment for his burns and smoke inhalation, Johnston heard the crying of the infant and quickly learned that the little boy with sustained burns and smoke inhalation had survived the fire thanks to his efforts.
Johnston had to retire from the fire department after being injured in another fire and that is when he came to CSM in the late 1970s to retrain for a new career in real estate. He graduated in 1981 with an associate of arts degree in humanities.
“It was a positive experience,” Johnston said in the release. “The humanities helped me immensely in my real estate career. It helped me to deal with clients and customers better.”
Life partner Fehl laughed and added that after the Marines and the fire department, Johnston needed that retraining to learn how to communicate without just giving orders.
The couple’s connection to CSM continued for the subsequent three decades of Fehl’s and Johnston’s work in commercial and residential real estate work in Charles, St. Mary’s and southern Prince George’s counties. That work flourished and allowed the couple to set up college funds for all eight of their grandchildren, two of whom have already graduated from CSM like their grandfather. In addition, the couple regularly contributed to CSM scholarship funds to assist other students over the years.
This fall, however, Fehl and Johnston decided to fund the creation of their own scholarship to benefit CSM students, setting up the Johnston Fehl Scholarship Endowment. This scholarship fund will benefit CSM students pursuing a degree in fire science, criminal justice, homeland security or arts/humanities.
It was an easy process, the couple said. Fehl and Johnston met with CSM Advocacy and Community Engagement Development coordinator Toni Kruszka, who helped them design a scholarship that matched their priorities.
“The Johnston and Fehl family gift is a wonderful display of how our biggest champions and advocates — our alumni — can give back,” Kruszka said in the release. “By matching donor interests with our programs, we were able to create a scholarship fund that will impact the lives of CSM students.”
“I encourage others to do the same,” Johnston said. “Helping young people helps our total community.” He said he and Fehl plan to be part of their scholarship selection process, helping to choose who will receive the scholarship funds.
“We feel very fortunate, and I think when you are fortunate, you should spread that to other people,” Fehl said in the release.
Fehl is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College and did graduate work at Texas University. A coal miner’s daughter, she earned her way through her undergraduate degree, assisted both by jobs at the college and student loans, along with “much appreciated” scholarships, she said.
Establishing the scholarship at CSM is just a piece of how Johnston and Fehl demonstrate their commitment to serving the community. Johnston is also active in the Rotary Club of Charles County – La Plata and he retired from the Charles County Christmas in April (now known as Charles County Rebuilding Together) Board of Directors after 20 years of service.
“We’re very invested in the community,” Fehl said.
CSM manages hundreds of scholarships like the Johnston Fehl Scholarship Endowment — scholarships that are created in memory of a special member of the family or community, scholarships to assist students in a particular area of study and scholarships designed to assist those with fewer financial resources. Approximately 500 scholarships are awarded annually to CSM students. And in the past 10 years, the CSM Foundation has awarded more than $3 million to more than 3,000 students, due to the generosity of people like Johnston and Fehl.
CSM students who would like to learn about available scholarship can use the college’s Scholarship Finder at www.csmd.edu/costs-aid/credit-costs-aid/scholarships-financial-aid/scholarships/scholarship-finder/.
Members of the community who maybe aren’t ready to create their own scholarship but would like to participate in the college’s efforts to make higher education affordable for all will have a special chance to help on Dec. 3 as CSM participates in this year’s Giving Tuesday.
During this event, givers can double their donation by choosing to support the Johnston Fehl Scholarship. Johnston and Fehl have pledged to match, dollar for dollar, the first $3,000 donated to their scholarship fund on #GivingTuesday.
An international day of generosity, Giving Tuesday follows Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday and focuses on philanthropy and giving to others after those days focused on consumerism. This year’s Giving Tuesday is a 24-hour online giving event, although donors can also mail in their donation dated Dec. 3.
For more information on Giving Tuesday or to donate on Dec. 3 or to learn more about creating scholarships that benefit CSM students, contact the CSM Development Department at 301-934-7599 or firstname.lastname@example.org.